Story & photos by Herman Delgado
When discussing sports, especially team sports, there’s an old cliché that starts out, “The team’s record doesn’t reflect…” That same cliché rang in my ears as I sat in the dugout for the majority of the 2018 UTEP Miners softball season. Without a doubt, this saying holds true to what I witnessed in that field, and their record (overall: 21-33; conference: 10-14) definitely does not reflect their strong will to win, heart, passion, performance, or determination on that field. So many games that could have gone their way, but the ball just didn’t bounce their way. I mentioned to fifth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk how many games could have gone either way, and she replied, “On any given day, I think we can beat the best!” Echo-Hawk will be losing three seniors from her squad, but she feels positive about the future and the impact that these three seniors had on the team. “We just have to keep getting better…losing these three seniors is going to be tough because they’re the heart of our team, they’re the heart of our line-up as far as the offensive production,” Echo-Hawk said. “But at the same time I think they’ve done a good job of instilling good work ethic, being good teammates, and good people, so hopefully it will just continue to get better and fill their spots and we have some good kids coming in.”
The final game came to a close on Sunday, May 6th, and I just sat in that dugout with a big smile on my face as I looked out into the field and watched these young ladies embrace each other, cry, laugh, and high-five their teammates. The ending would write itself out like a script made for the big screen. You would have thought they just won the NCAA Championship, but in their hearts they did much more than that…they captured the hearts of their families, teammates, fans, and fellow UTEP athletes. All three seniors played important roles in the outcome of their final three games in which they swept a three-game series from Louisiana Tech.
Clayton, Ryder, and Sargent joined the UTEP roster beginning in 2014 through 2018. Clayton, a second-baseman out of Glencoe High School, in Cornelius, Oregon, Health Promotion major will be heading back to Oregon where she plans on enrolling in a 16-month accelerated nursing program at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon ”I still want to be around the game for sure. Nursing is something I’m super excited about,” Clayton said. “I really get to take in a lot of things that I learned from softball into that, teamwork, hard work, passion determination, all those things I’ve learned through softball and I think that’s something I’m taking into the new chapter and not having softball in my life every day, I’m going to be able to look back and be thankful for that and know that it will always be a part of me.”
Sargent, a right-fielder hails from Volcano Vista High School, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was a kinesiology major, but recently switched to English major and plans on going into the education field. “I’m going into teaching after I graduate, and I’m hoping to start my career here and kind of get some experience and go from there,” Sargent said.
Ryder, a left-fielder and catcher is from Chatsworth High School, in Chatsworth, California. A criminal justice major that plans on going into an area of law enforcement. “I’m going back to Oregon, where I have a possible coaching opportunity there,” said Ryder. “I’m also going to look into anything dealing with criminal justice from the court systems to federal agencies.”
It was a bitter-sweet ending to a tough and competitive season, but this team left quite an impression on this community, the fans, and their coach. “They embrace everything, like if you watch them after the game with the little kids and signing autographs,” Echo-Hawk said. “We’ve done community service things with Miracle League and Special Olympics, and they are just all super engaged in what they’re doing, and it just shows you how good of people they are. Our fans are great! Like if you go and watch other Conference USA fan bases, I think that we have the best overall…the people are into it, they’re excited, and they root our team on, win or lose!”